Rottnest’s future water solutions in the hands of talented students

December 22, 2015

Holly Knight, General Manager Environment, Heritage, Risk and Safety for the Rottnest Island Authority, with Luke MurphyRottnest Island may make better use of its water supplies in the future thanks to a group of Environmental Engineering students from Murdoch University.

Luke Murphy, Chad Harris and Laura Senge spent last semester developing a plan for the Rottnest Island Authority to expand their water supplies in a sustainable manner.

Their efforts were rewarded, winning the Australian Water Association’s WA Undergraduate Water Prize earlier this month.

Luke Murphy, who collected the award on behalf of the team, said that Rottnest Island’s water consumption swells beyond its capacity over the summer and new approaches are needed.

“In our audit of Rottnest’s water use, we found that the island produces around 167 megalitres of desalinated water and extracts around 20 megalitres of groundwater over the year, but this does not meet the current needs of the seasonal population,” Luke said.

“There are plans to expand the tourist population over the next 20 years from 500,000 to 800,000 people visiting the island annually, and so we made a series of recommendations to help plan for the increasing water needs.

“Day visitors are estimated to consume 100 litres of water per day and overnight visitors can consume more than 250 litres, so the extra tourism population is a serious concern.”

Luke and his team made a number of recommendations, including the replacement of pipes that have become corroded from years of pumping salt water.

“This would also provide an opportunity to install water meters so that the island can develop a clearer picture of where water is being consumed,” Luke said.

“There are a number of great innovations that are being developed, such as the membrane bioreactor waste water plant currently being built to use recycled wastewater for reticulation.

“We were shocked to find that more than a third of the island’s drinkable water is currently being used to reticulate the golf course, which will not be a viable solution as the population grows.”

The team also investigated new technologies such as iron bacteria removal and forward osmosis to enhance the sustainability of drinkable water production on the Island as well as a localised self-sufficient eco camp to provide alternative amenities throughout remote locations on the Island.

The project was sponsored by the Rottnest Island Authority.

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